For the first time in many years, the San Jose Public Library will soon be featuring new library card designs. There will be six new designs, two from each category of Adult, Teen, and Children.The design entries were submitted as part of a contest conducted by the library, and each category had one design selected by the public, and another by a panel of judges.
These new card designs got me to thinking about my first library card. I had the card throughout the 1960s, and I remember using it when the pink bookmobile would park across the street from our house. The card was gold and white with blue lettering, and was called a "Bookamatic Charge Card." It was a pretty cool card and it even had my name and address embossed on it. Whenever I checked out a book, the library staff would place my card and a plastic card from the book pocket onto a hand-operated credit card machine to create carbon copies for their records.
Image: This is what my first library card looked like. The blank white area included your name and full address. The "Bookamatic" system was developed by Addressograph-Multigraph Corporation and used by San Jose Public Library from 1958 through 1977.
Some time in the mid-1970s, I went to check out some books from the Main Library on West San Carlos Street, and discovered they had started using a new system with barcodes. The clerk told me that they were replacing my old card with a plain looking blue and white card with a barcode. I asked if I could keep my old card, and the clerk said no, and wouldn't return the card to me. Some twenty years later the library held a special contest for everyone who still had their 1960s library card. Hmm....
Image: This is the type of card I was given to replace my first card. It was printed on heavy card stock with a barcode label. Books and other materials also received encoded barcodes, which enabled the library to begin recording transactions into its new SCI computer system in 1977.
Above are examples of the 1960s and 1970s style San Jose Public Library cards. Below are examples of the s1940/50s style, and then from the 1980s to present. My thanks to librarians Tim Abney and Erin Herzog, staff member David Mejias, and former staff member Lynn Harris for their contributions to this post.
Image: Here's a San Jose Public Library card from 1949. In 1943, the library had begun using the Gaylord charging system for book check-outs. I've photo-shopped my name onto the card to show how the typed patron information appeared.
Image: Above is my library card from 1989. It looks pretty much like the card from 1977, though now the cards are made of thin plastic. In 1987, the library acquired the CLSI fully integrated system for the main and branch libraries.
Image: This card was issued to celebrate the Main Library's 25th anniversary in 1995.
Image: This mid-1990s library card was the first of San Jose's cards to embed the barcode into the card (on reverse). There is another version of this card with the sun in orange.
Image: This card was designed for use at the new King Library on 4th and San Fernando Streets which opened in 2003, however it's use was short lived.
Image: This card has been in use at the new King Library for most of the 2000's to present.
Image: This Conroy Cougar card was designed by artist David Mejia, a member of the library staff, and has been in use for many years as a children's card. David mentioned that the original drawing included cross-hatching and a pink nose. Conroy has been the library's mascot since the 1990s.
Further reading in the California Room:
- Looking Back: San Jose Public Library Automation History
- New Library Cards for the New Year
- California Room Index: San Jose Public Library
- King Library Digital Collections: San Jose Public Library